Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dan Brown Strikes Again

So we just got our (eighteen) copies of The Lost Symbol circulating today, which leads me to muse on the nature of the explosive breakout hit from #1 New York Times Bestselling etc Dan Brown. Now, I have little patience with these #1 New York Times Bestselling folks, particularly when they or their ghostwriters churn out a new monstrously thick thriller ever three or four months and they immediately top the bestseller lists because their legions of fans, who are apparently sheep, put things on pre-order and the books are automatically popular. James Patterson, I'm looking at you. If you aren't actually dead and your ghostwriters are just using your name to keep writing bestsellers. Now, in a capitalist society, there's nothing wrong with this practice. Hey, if these authors have figured out a way to make the big bucks with a minimum of effort, more power to them. But I cannot stand the collective cultural assumption that simply because these books are popular, they are also necessarily good. As the TWoP mantra regarding American Idol tells us, Loud Is The New Good.

And Dan Brown is very, very loud. Granted, I believe he actually does write his own books, and I've read Angels and Demons and DaVinci Code and found them both to be readable, somewhat exciting, and more intellectually stimulating than say, Twilight. But of course the ingredients label on a jar of mayonnaise is more intellectually stimulating than Twilight. Anyway. Dan Brown's books aren't bad, but they're not particularly good, either, or at least they're not exceptional. Angels and Demons was new and exciting when it was new, DaVinci Code was the one that made Brown popular because he hit on the clever tactic of Getting The Religious Right All Riled Up By Ripping Off A Book That Had Been Published Years Earlier. Holy Blood, Holy Grail actually is a fun read, and its artistic and symbolic content would actually make a decent novel. It's also a blatant lie, as admitted by its team of authors some years after its publication. The rampant OMG Jesus had a secret family silliness was taken by Brown and shoehorned into his second Robert Langdon novel, and it made the series wildly popular and controversial, but it also made DaVinci Code the lesser book in the series.

Here's a funny story about my experience reading these books: I read DaVinci Code first, because I was working at the Art Museum at the time, and everyone in the office was all abuzz about how there's this hit book making art exciting and accessible to people. So I read it, and was pleasantly surprised for the most part, but I also wished that this guy had maybe included the Illuminati and left all the Jesus nonsense out. Because he really did just take HB,HG, Gnostic philosophy, and some Wiccan stuff, and put it in a blender. This does not make for compelling revelations. At least not for me, thinking erudite person. Where were the Illuminati? I wondered. And then I read Angels and Demons, and realized that Dan Brown really did have the capacity to write intelligent thrillers, and had in fact done so, but then he wrote the Jesusy sequel and started pandering to the mob.

And what pandering and/or ripping off has he done in his third book about Robert Langdon, I wonder? Why he is only stealing from that actually very fun and clever Jerry Bruckheimer film, NATIONAL TREASURE. I'll repeat that. Dan Brown is Ripping Off National Treasure.

You may argue, but Allison, wasn't National Treasure pretty much ripping off The DaVinci Code in the first place and dumbing it down for an American moviewatching audience? Yes, that's true. But! National Treasure also had great pacing, really smart writing with funny quips, and an entirely satisdying plot. And it's a better movie than The DaVinci Code. How National Treasure managed to be that fun despite having Nicholas Cage in the lead still boggles the mind to this day. But the point it, it's good shit. And now, Dan Brown's latest literary offering has Langdon uncovering mysteries in Washington DC (!) involving the Freemasons (!!) and the lost treasure of Solomon (!!!). Of course since Dan's got to be a Debbie Downer about things, this mystery involves not an actual treasure but something about the secret name of God, probably. This I gleaned from the dustjacket and flipping to a random page that had a code on it. Secret name of God. I get that Brown is trying to make nerdy things exciting for the mainstream, but honestly, fella, an ACTUAL TREASURE (see: National Treasure and National Treasure 2: Electric Boogaloo) is miles more exciting than ancient secret wisdom that has apparently been covered up in a vast global conspiracy that could bring the civilization of the world to its knees (but probably ends up not doing so). Also, if there's a villainous villain with some sort of religious obsession and/or bizarre fetish, like Dan Brown seems to love writing, I'm officially declaring National Treasure as Less Lame.

But I'm not making truly official until I actually read the book. We'll see, folks! we shall see!

Last Point: Benjamin Franklin Gates has better hair than Robert Langdon. And Gates is played by Nicholas Cage. This pains me, but also proves my point.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stitch 'n Pitch 2009

WOO! I actually went to and (GASP) enjoyed a baseball game! those of you who know me irl know that I hate baseball so much. But! watching baseball while KNITTING, that is another thing altogether. Also, the Cards actually won tonight, so that made it more fun.

Goodie Bag! Here's what I got:
2 cross-stitch patterns
1 cute jacket pattern "Sierra" in KidLin
1 basic men's sweater pattern, "Jonathan"
1 July/August issue Crochet Today
1 October issue Knit 'n Style
1 booklet of cardigan patterns of Virevolte yarn. totally 80s!
1 Louisa Harding pattern book which I actually already have a copy of from Myers House
1 Go Red Heart scarf pattern designed for Stitch 'n Pitch events
1 brochure telling me how great Manos Del Uruguay yarn is, as if I didn't already know. ha ha
1 brochure promoting Heifer International, good folks, them.
A ton of coupons for the various sponsoring LYSes
1 point protector which looks too much like a twizzler bite and I really wish it was, so I could eat it
1 ChiaoGoo 9mm bamboo crochet hook (well, I've got to re-learn sometime!)
1 set size 9 ChiaoGoo bamboo DPNs, 6"
1 skein Lamb's Pride worsted in a shade of pink that almost EXACTLY matches the shirt I wore to the game! Mom also received a skein of something cotton that matched her shirt! it was madness!

I also caught a ball of black Berocco eyelash yarn, and who knows what I'll use that for.

more importantly! I made a TON of progress on my St. James sweater! or should I say, my totally sexy Joan Holloway sweater that is red red red and super cute. I was able to try it on not once but Twice! at the game to see how it was coming along, and it's going great, fits nicely, and my adjusted decreased seemed to work out well. I did the first half of them with only 2 rounds between decrease rounds, and the second half with 3 rounds between. Now I'm going strong on the plain stockinette portion, and wondering if I should shorten that and get to the increases sooner because 1) I am short and 2) I have a tummy. we shall see! but for now, I'm extremely pleased with what I've accomplished.

Top-down knitting is so great! I never want to knit a sweater in pieces ever again! I will not be making that mistake! This is so much more fun. and not drudgery.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lifetime: Television for Watching Ironically!

Although if there's one thing Lifetime is good for, it's showing bizarre movies starring Valerie Bertinelli about former Lohan-esque starlets who go to rehab and then go into hiding in Indiana and...stuff. And of course now Lifetime is also good for Project Runway.

But! crazy cheesy movies make for excellent time spent knitting! and I'm making real progress on my St. James sweater. I love love love love love top-down knitting. this is so fun, this project actually looks like a sweater now and I can try it on and see how it's turning out and it's not a big huge mess like that ill-begotten cardigan was! hallelujah! This thing is gonna look super cute.

Just for the sake of keeping track for myself: I finished the raglan shaping, put the sleeves on waste yarn, and doing a few rounds of stockinette on the body before I start the first bit of shaping. woohoo!

tonight's Joanspiration on Mad Men was woefully lacking, but Christina Hendricks still looks supermegafoxyawesomehot, and great in turquoise. Also, Sal in his jammies. that scene killed me in several different ways. oh lord. I ought to go to bed, but I want to make a bit more progress on this sweater before I sign off. hooray for motivation!